This teaching includes a free sermon outline to download for personal use, message preparation or Bible study discussion.
Let’s go back to the two scriptures that we opened with and just look at them again. Acts 20:28:
“Therefore take heed to yourselves and to all the flock among which the Holy Spirit has raised you overseers to shepherd the church of God which he purchased with his own blood.”
I pointed out that Paul directs their attention first to their own selves and then to the flock. If we do not take heed to ourselves, ultimately we will not be capable of shepherding the flock. And then in 1Timothy 4:16 Paul again uses the same phrase but in the singular addressed to one man, Timothy.
“Take heed to yourself and to the doctrine.”
Again, the message we teach is important but our own lives are primary. So it’s take heed to yourself, then to what you teach.
“Continue in then, for in doing this you will both save yourself and those who hear you.”
If we don’t succeed in saving ourself, it’s problematical whether we’ll save those who hear us.
So I shared yesterday out of my own background and experience ways in which I feel we need to take heed to ourselves, things that we need to watch out for. I believe I shared three. The first which I probably made the greatest emphasis upon was cultivate hearing God’s voice. And we traced, I think all through the scripture, how in every age and dispensation God’s ways of dealings with man may vary in some respects but the one ongoing unvarying requirement is to hear God’s voice. I think that has to be cultivated. I think we have to cultivate sensitivity to hear and discern the voice of the Lord and to distinguish it from other voices. Sometimes I’ve felt that the Lord has spoken to me but I wasn’t absolutely sure. Sometimes I thought it was too good to be true. And one of the tests that I have come to have confidence is is does it remain, is it permanent? Or does it just pass out of your mind? So I have a pending file that I put some things in and I can say that things that the Lord truly spoke to me he may have spoken 40 years ago but they’re just as fresh and just as vital today as they were when he first spoke them. I think that’s one test. What the Holy Spirit writes upon our hearts is eternal.
The second suggestion I had was pray things through before they happen.
And the third is walking in your calling. Be very careful not to step outside the bounds of your calling. That doesn’t mean that God will always keep you in the same precise area. I think if you’re faithful he will enlarge you. But make sure that it’s God who is enlarging you. I quoted that very simple statement from Exodus 23:31 in the New American Standard where God says I will fix your boundaries. Since I’ve moved back to Jerusalem, it’s been very clear to me that I needed to find out the boundary that God had fixed for me there. It’s very easy in a place like Jerusalem—and that’s not the only place—to dissipate your energies doing all sorts of good things and helping all sorts of people but not walking within the boundary of your responsibility.
Now I would like to continue this list of suggestions and I want to emphasize they’re personal and they may not be exactly so applicable in your life. On the other hand, as I am speaking, the Holy Spirit may drop things in your mind that do apply to you. Some of what I have to say is very elementary but the important thing is that it’s true.
The next thing I would emphasize is practice being thankful. I remember when I was newly saved, I was saved a few weeks in Britain, and then in the Army sent me overseas and found myself in the deserts of North Africa, Egypt and Libya for basically the next two years. I had no opportunity to attend a church or have a pastor or listen to preachers. I was simply there on my own amongst very ungodly people with no other equipment but my Bible. But there was one other soldier who was not in the same unit that I was in because I was in the medical corps, he was in what was called the service corp. He was a driver. But from time to time we could get together and have fellowship. And I remember I came to a point and he did to where the pressures of the desert and the monotony and the continuing blasphemy and all that became overwhelming. So we decided to do something which was very revolutionary at that state in my Christian experience, we decided to fast for a day and ask God to show us what was wrong. I wasn’t quite sure that you could approach God that way. Well when we got together in the evening and began to pray we got a tongue and an interpretation. And the interpretation began with, “Why have you not thanked me, why have you not praised me?” And God made it very clear that our problem was not our situation but our attitude. We had not been thanking him. And I think many, many times when Christians feel their situation is wrong, the problem really isn’t in the situation, it’s in the attitude. I’ve seen that, I’ve been a missionary on two fields. I’ve had a lot of relationships with missionaries. Missionaries are, in a sense, the cream of the crop but they’re also God’s problem people. And they have such problems being discontented, not being in the right job or being under the wrong person or whatever it may be. And I’ve seen that the primary problem is not being thankful.
Let me look at some scriptures with you. Let’s turn, first of all, to Ephesians 5:17–21. This is the passage about being filled with the Holy Spirit. I think we need to give heed to it.
“Therefore do not be unwise but understand what the word of the Lord is.”
Now I interpret that to indicate that the following verses are the will of the Lord. And that if we don’t understand those we are unwise.
“Do not be drunk with wine in which is dissipation, but be filled with the Spirit.”
So many Christian groups have majored on the negative and ignored the positive that each command is equally valid. It is wrong to be drunk with wine but it is also wrong not to be filled with the Holy Spirit.
Now what’s the mark of being filled with the Holy Spirit? I believe the next three verses describe what it’s like to be filled with the Holy Spirit and it’s not enough to have spoken in tongues in l972. That is not sufficient. What are the marks?
“Speaking to one another...”
I have made a study in the New Testament some years back of the evidence of being filled with the Holy Spirit or full of the Holy Spirit. I studied the persons, the situations, the results. If I remember rightly, there are eight individuals of whom it is stated that they were filled with the Holy Spirit. Five of them died a martyr’s death. So before you ask to be filled with the Holy Spirit just count the cost. There are interesting results. Everywhere that it speaks about being filled with the Holy Spirit the next phrase is something to do with the mouth. I studied the characteristics. Some of them were very interesting. I found that they were people of great plainness of speech like John the Baptist who said, “You generation of vipers, what are you doing here?” It was really interesting. It gave me a different perspective on what really is involved in being filled with the Holy Spirit. So here is one clear example. After it says be filled with the Holy Spirit the next word is speaking.
“Out of the abundance of the heart the mouth speaks.”
I think you can check for yourself it’s true in every place where it speaks about being filled with the Spirit or full of the Spirit.
“Speaking to one another in psalms and hymns and spiritual songs.”
Speaking to yourselves. I think it’s legitimate to speak to yourself that way even if there’s nobody else there. Isaiah said the Lord has become my strength and my song. That’s the key verse for my wife Ruth. The Lord is her strength and her song. Whatever she’s doing she sings. And it changes the atmosphere. I’m glad to have a singing wife, a wife who sings psalms, hymns and spiritual songs.
“Singing and making melody in your heart to the Lord.”
That’s for me because I’m not very melodious with my voice but I try to be melodious in my heart. Then notice the next aspect:
“Giving thanks always for all things to God the Father in the name of our Lord Jesus Christ.”
So after the singing and the praising comes the giving thanks. And then the final mark:
“Submitting to one another in the fear of God [or in the fear of Christ.]”
So I say a person who is not full of praise, a person who is not continually thankful and a person who does not have a submissive attitude is not full of the Holy Spirit. Those are the three primary marks of being full, not of having been filled in l972, but of being full in l983. Praise, worship, giving thanks and submission. And the moment you cease to be thankful, you know you’re no longer full of the Holy Spirit. You may have been, you may have started out today full of the Holy Spirit but at that point you are no longer full.
You know, if you’re carrying a vessel full of water and somebody jogs your arm and a little spills, what spills out tells you what’s in. And if complaining comes out then it isn’t the Holy Spirit, believe me!
Let’s look at another scripture, 1Thessalonians 5. We’ll begin at verse 16. Here are some of the shortest verses in the New Testament.
“Rejoice always, pray without ceasing, in everything give thanks for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. Do not quench the Spirit. Do not despise prophecies. Test all things, hold fast what is good. Abstain from every form of evil.”
John Wesley, as you know, held the doctrine of Christian perfection which I think is a very realistic doctrine. It has been abused and perverted later. And somebody challenged him and said what do you mean by Christian perfection? He said, very simply, rejoice evermore, pray without ceasing and in everything give thanks. And believe me, anybody that does that—And you can’t go against those because they’re three clear requirements of scripture.
And then immediately after that it says do not quench the Spirit. I understand that in the context to mean that if you cease to rejoice, cease to pray or cease to give thanks you’re quenching the Spirit.
And in connection with giving thanks it says for this is the will of God in Christ Jesus for you. What is that? The will of God is for you to give thanks for everything. Now you understand that you may be in the right position, in the right ministry, in the right fellowship. But if you’re not thankful you’re out of the will of God. Not because of your situation but because of your attitude. I don’t know how many people I’ve encountered who said I’m not in God’s will. But when you analyze the situation it isn’t the situation, it’s the attitude. When you cease to be thankful you are out of the will of God no matter what else may be true in your situation. I find that being thankful is a beautiful thing. It makes people beautiful. It gives them a special grace. You probably know that the Greek word for “to give thanks” [eucharisto] is directly related to the word for grace [charis]. And in Latin the word gratiais the word for giving thanks which has come to us in all the Latin languages as gracia, gras... The message is if you’re not thankful, you’re not in the grace of God. The grace of God is expressed in thankfulness. This was impressed upon me when I discovered that in the African languages where we were working in Kenya they didn’t have any word for thank you. They had to borrow it from another language. Can you imagine living among people who have no word for thank you. What that brought home to me really was that it’s only where the grace of God is operating that people have a word for thank you. It’s the grace of God that’s brought thankfulness.
Let’s look at just one scripture on the other side. 2Timothy 3:1–5.
“But know this, that in the last days perilous times will come.”
Now the source of the peril is not nuclear fission. It’s the degeneration of human character. I personally believe that sin is corruptive. I find that the key word to describe the carnal nature, the old man is corrupt. And that once corruption sets in it’s always progressive. Consequently I believe that there is a progressive degeneration of human character that is unfolding in history. And so when it says in the last days we get this list, that is, in a sense, the necessary outworking of the corruption of sin once it’s entered. And then we get this appalling list and we need to note that it begins and ends with what people love. Verse 2:
“For men will be lovers of themselves, lovers of money [and going down to the end of verse 4:] lovers of pleasure more than lovers of God.”
Take those three phrases: love of self, love of money and love of pleasure. How true are they about contemporary culture in America? I would say probably they are the three most accurately descriptive adjectives of our contemporary culture. Love of self, love of money and love of pleasure. And then imbedded in that is this other list of moral blemishes: boasters, proud, blasphemers, disobedient to parents, unthankful, unholy and so on. Notice where unthankful comes. Between disobedient to parents and unholy. You cannot be unthankful and be holy. They’re two self contradictory terms. Thankfulness has to be cultivated. It really has to be a decision. We have to see it in scripture and then trust God’s grace to reproduce it in us.
Looking back on my own walk with the Lord I’m sure there are many areas which the Lord has to deal with, but I can say I am a much more thankful person than I was when the Lord saved me. In fact, I was a very unthankful, critical, resentful negative. It’s taken a lot of patience and grace on the part of the Lord but there have been major changes in my character. In fact, if I tell people who have only known me the past ten years or so what I used to be like they can’t believe it. But it’s true. Now I say that really to encourage you and myself because sometimes when we look at what God expects of us we think well, that’s too much to ask. But God’s grace really is sufficient. It’s not merely was sufficient nor will be sufficient, it is sufficient. And as I said, the word for grace and the word for thanks are directly related. I think the best way to appropriate the grace of God is by being thankful.
Let’s look at another lesson that God and life have taught me. I think this is a very important one, it’s one that’s become more vivid and clear for me in recent years. I’d express it this way: Let God choose for you. You’ve probably heard the saying God gives his best to those who leave the choice to him? I believe that’s profoundly true. I was very much impressed some time back by a statement made by John the Baptist in John 3:27. We need to get it in the context.
“Some people came to John and said to him, Rabbi, he who is with you beyond the Jordan, to who you have testified, behold, he is baptizing and all are coming to him.”
In other words, you’re losing your popularity, your rating is slipping. You’re not number one any longer, there’s another one. How would you feel about that? How would I feel about that? I think John’s response is a beautiful pattern.
“John answered and said: A man can receive nothing unless it has been given to him from heaven.”
Now I used to ponder that statement and I thought to myself I really don’t see that that’s exactly accurate. Because I see lots of people who have things and I don’t believe they were all given to them from heaven. Even in the ministry and in church life. And as I was kind of debating this with the Lord I felt he directed my attention to the word receive. And he said a man can received nothing unless it has been given him from above. And I felt the Lord was showing me that you can grab for things but that’s not the same as receiving them. But if something is given you from above then you have the right to receive it. And I felt God indicated to me that the things people get by grabbing they will not keep. The only things which are permanent are those which are given us from above. And I have tried to cultivate that attitude in my ministry. Let’s be frank about it. To see somebody else more successful than yourself is a kind of challenge, especially if you’re a success oriented person. And I am. I was born that way. I expect to succeed. I always have expected to succeed. Not in everything but in the things that I think are worth doing. And there are times when it seems that somebody who is not so deserving is being more successful. I’m sure you’ve never had that problem! What is the answer? I think the answer is to cultivate this attitude: A man can receive nothing unless it is given him from above. And I think I have arrived at the stage where I’m not interested in anything if it isn’t given me from above. Because it’s ultimately going to cause me more headaches and frustrations than blessings.
Now, side by side with that verse there I’d like to give you also one that’s become extremely real to me in John 10:29. I’m going to read the version I have here but I’m going to suggest an alternative reading. Jesus is speaking about those whom the Father has given to him. And he says:
“My Father who has given them to me is greater than all, and no one is able to snatch them out of my Father’s hand.”
Now, that’s the standard reading but it so happens in the Greek one text that I read which I think is based on ?Nessly?, it’s different. And if you have a New International Version it should be in the margin in the bottom, there’s an alternative reading, is that right? And the alternative reading is:
“That which my Father has given me is greater than all.”
Now I’m not contending for the reading but when I found that it spoke to me. That which the Father has given is greater than all. It doesn’t set aside, each complements the other. But a particular situation that I was in, I felt I was called upon to renounce something which I believe was God’s will for me. And it was a very difficult and painful decision. But when I made it, I came across this scripture: That which the Father has given is greater than all. And I came to the conclusion that if I was right in believing that the Father had given me this, there was no power in the universe that could ultimately prevent me having it. And I rested in that and it worked out that way. So this has become very real. That which the Father has given is the ultimate in the universe. When all the dust has settled and all the battles are over, it’ll be the way the Father gave it. There is no power in the universe that is greater than that. And I have come to the place where I don’t want anything that the Father hasn’t given me. That’s sufficient. And that has given me a rest and a security. Other people may seem to succeed in ways I wouldn’t approve of. I don’t know whether you’ve ever had that problem but I see some people using very, very carnal and sometimes crooked methods and chalking up success. I see people denying things that I might consider to be very, very important and teaching contrary to them. But it no longer worries me because that which the Father has given is greater than all. That’s the way it’s going to be. And I have got my own garden to cultivate, I don’t have to run around and check on the weeds in other people’s gardens. I do believe I can say I have rest and security in that attitude.
I would like to make this observation and it may come out of the next thing I’m going to say anyhow. I think one of the biggest problems that hinders successful ministry is insecurity. I have come to the conclusion that I would like to relate to people who are secure and prosperous. The most difficult kind of person to relate to is an insecure person. Now that’s not to criticize the insecure. I also wonder—and this is a very important question—whether ultimately God will allow his servants to grasp for security in human relationships. I find lots of people come into relationships because they’re insecure. Brother, you take responsibility for me, I’ll do anything you tell me. Well, that’s good in many ways but I want to suggest to you that God will not let you stop there. There will have to come a place where your security is in your relationship with the Lord, no matter how people treat you. And if you are relying on your brothers for your securities, sooner or later God will let one of them stab you in the back just to show you that that’s not the ultimate source of security. Now I do believe we have a tremendous responsibility to one another. I believe many times we need to nurture people into security. But never let people find their ultimate security in horizontal relationships.
I’ve just completed a book called “Chords from David’s Harp” which is devotional on the psalms and one of the devotionals is on the first verse of Psalm 23, the Lord is my shepherd, I shall not lack. To me that’s the most complete statement of security anybody could ever make. I shall not lack. There will never be a need in my life which will not be supplied. It’s on the basis of what? My relationship with the Lord. The Lord is my shepherd. Now that does not set aside human relationships but it does mean that the vertical is primary. The horizontal should grow out of the vertical.
What are the marks of insecurity? Challenges tend to frighten you, you’re looking for approval on the horizontal level. Now I enjoy approval. Everybody that comes up to me and says thank you, Brother Prince, it was a wonderful message. I appreciate that, I don’t want to stop that but it isn’t the ultimate. I find that people who are insecure tend to fly off the handle or blow the stack. Not because they’re bad people but because they’re insecure. If anything doesn’t go the way they think it ought to go they tend to lose control even if it’s in disciplining their own children. It’s probably, I think, the greatest enemy of true relationships. And it’s rampant in our contemporary culture. Most people in America today are insecure. I think the word “My Father” has got something to say. My Father who has given them, or that which my Father has given is greater than all. It’s a great comfort to me to know I have a heavenly father who is in charge of everything, started it all and will work it all out precisely the way he intended. I find I get much less upset about things than I would have done twenty years ago. David said the wicked may prosper for a short while but they’ll wither like grass. I think I’ve lived long enough to see that happen. David said I’ve been young and now I’m old but I’ve never seen the righteous forsaken or his seed begging bread. He was not just giving a theory, he was saying the result of personal observation. God says in the book of Proverb: His children shall have strong confidence, they shall have a place of refuge. He is Almighty.
In this context let’s look at one other scripture. Matthew 5:5. I don’t think most of us spend long enough in the beatitudes and I’m saying that to myself primarily.
“Blessed are the meek for they shall inherit the earth.”
Who is going to inherit the earth? The meek. Not the strong, not the grabber, not the self promoter but the meek. We win by yielding. I think there’s a hymn that says that. Think of Abraham. He and Lot were together, Lot was just a follower. God had promised Abraham the Land of Canaan. When they had to separate Abraham could have so easily said I’m the older, I’m the senior, God promised me this land, this is what I’m having, you find something else. But out of his security he said to Lot, the younger, you choose. That’s real security. I suppose he knew that God’s promise couldn’t fail him. Grabbers are very insecure people. Don’t grab. Don’t reach, don’t strive. Read Psalm 37. Don’t fret yourself because of the wicked.
Let’s go on to the next one because it’s very close. What I’ve written here is rest in inheritance which isn’t a complete sentence but I think it expresses. The thrust of Hebrews is always forward. And in that connection there are three key words: inheritance, rest, perfection [or completeness]. And that’s the thrust of Hebrews. It’s always moving forward. Right at the beginning when it speaks about Jesus it says God made him the heir of all things. And by him God created the universe. Notice the heir comes before creation. The end comes before the beginning. That’s the thrust of Hebrews, it’s this dealing with religious people who are getting bogged down in their religion. The aim of Hebrews is to blast them out of that and get them moving forward. Let us go on, let us go on, that’s the thing. But the goal is inheritance, rest, perfection. They’re intertwined, you cannot separate them. Your rest is only in your inheritance. And only in your inheritance and in rest can you find perfection, completeness, fulfillment.
Let’s look at a couple of scriptures about rest and inheritance which, to me, are very searching. Deuteronomy 12:9:
“For as yet you have not come to the rest and the inheritance which the Lord your God is giving you.”
You can check on that all through Deuteronomy which is the book that’s preparing them to go into their inheritance. The word rest is never separated from the word inheritance. In other words, there is no rest for people of God outside of their inheritance. There is no rest for any of you as an individual outside of your inheritance. It’s only as you come into your inheritance that you will find true rest.
Again in Deuteronomy 25:19:
“Therefore it shall be when the Lord your God has given you rest from your enemies all around in the land which the Lord your God is giving you to possess as an inheritance.”
We don’t need to complete the sentence but the rest is only in the inheritance. Maybe we should say that together. The rest is only in the inheritance. So if you are restless, you need to find your inheritance. You cannot settle down, God would not let them settle down anywhere on the journey until they came into their inheritance.
Going on into the New Covenant, in the New Testament, Hebrews 4:9. I pointed out that in Hebrews 3 and 4 the word rest occurs twelve times and it doesn’t occur elsewhere in Hebrews. It’s concentrated in these two chapters. And in chapter 4:9:
“There remains therefore a rest for the people of God.”
Most of your translations will say a sabbath rest. It means a keeping of the sabbath. As I said, I think earlier in one of these meetings, the devil can delay the fulfillment of God’s purposes but never ultimately frustrate them. So God patiently goes on saying someday, my people are going to enter into that rest. Under Joshua they failed. David then spoke about it in Psalm 95 and the writer of Hebrews says it’s still there waiting for the people of God. A Sabbath rest.
And in that connection I would like to say a little bit more about rest. I think this perhaps is an area in which most ministers come short of God’s purpose. It’s the area of rest. God said to Israel when they were disobedient under the Old Covenant, you didn’t give your land its Sabbath while you were in so I’m evicting you for seventy years and the land will get its Sabbath while you’re out of it. I said to many ministers, If you don’t take your Sabbath while you’re working, God will put you in hospital and you’ll take a whole three months of Sabbath without anything else.
Now, how do we take a Sabbath? This is a very interesting question and difficult one to answer. When Ruth and I are in Jerusalem—Jerusalem is about the only city in the world today, I think, where Sabbath is taken seriously. And as you know the Jewish day which is the right way, begins in the evening. One thing I’ll tell you is if you want a day of rest, start the previous evening. It’ll make it much more successful. God knew what he was doing when he said the evening and the morning is day one, day two and so on. Because by the beginning of the morning you’re already rested. If you start trying to rest then it will take you a long while to get into it. Well, in Jerusalem, all public transportation ceases at sundown on Friday and does not resume till Saturday. And all public construction on buildings and things ceases. There’s a kind of hush that comes over the city and it’s one of the most beautiful experiences that I’ve enjoyed. Ruth and I look forward to it. One of the lessons is that Sabbath only works if it’s communal. If you are resting and everybody around you is busy, you know, how much rest is there? You can get some but it’s not the same. So we’re jealous of our Sabbath in Israel. We almost count them up and look forward to them.
In this connection I would say myself that I believe God only gave the Sabbath as such as described in the Law of Moses only to Israel. The church has a Sabbath but it’s a different kind of Sabbath. God said at the end of Leviticus that the Sabbath would be a sign between him and Israel. And historically, the keeping of the Sabbath has kept the Jews a separate people more distinctively than any other single ordinance. In fact, if they had not observed the Sabbath I doubt whether there would be a discernible Jewish people in the earth today. It’s just to see God’s wisdom and his purposes worked out.
If you’re not privileged to live in Jerusalem you can just you know, feel mildly envious but you can’t do much more about it than that because in contemporary America everything is open 24 hours a day, seven days a week and the traffic never ceases, the people never begin to rest. It is the most restless society that has ever exited I would say. And it automatically infects us. Let me share a little about this because it’s been a real issue with me. I have preached to our own fellowship in Fort Lauderdale on how to observe a Sabbath as a community. And I think it’s a very desirable thing to do. In most, quote, Christian environments you more or less have to make it Sunday. But I would say begin Saturday evening. If you’re not familiar with Jewish culture the Sabbath is called the queen of the week. And Seventh Day Adventists as far as I know keep the Sabbath and hate it. The Jews love it, they welcome it. They treat it with honor. It’s the queen. They have the phrase in honor of the Sabbath. And they begin on Friday evening with a very well prepared evening meal. It’s the best meal of the week. Poor families can probably only have one good meal a week but it will always be the Friday evening meal. The person who bears the burden of the Sabbath is the wife and the mother. She has to get the house clean, the children clean, dressed up and ready. But, she’s also the queen of the Sabbath. And again, I think, one tremendous source of strength for the Jewish people is that so much of their religion is centered in their homes and not just in their meeting place. The woman doesn’t have much to do in a synagogue. If she goes she sits separately and in some places behind some kind of a curtain. But in her home she’s the queen. And again, this has undoubtedly preserved the Jewish people and given them their closeness which has kept them in all the centuries of dispersion. The miracle of the preservation of the Jewish people is something you would do well to meditate on. My first wife was Danish and she used to say if you scattered the Danes among the nations of the world, in a 100 years you wouldn’t find a Dane anywhere in the world. The Jewish people have been scattered 2000 years and emerge again a distinct, recognizable, separate people.
When Balaam looked out over Israel and made his unwilling prophecy of blessing, he said this:
“The people, Israel, shall dwell alone, they shall not be reckoned among the nations.”
The highest will of God was for Israel to dwell alone in their own land. But even if they failed that the second remains true, they shall not be reckoned among the nations, the Gentiles. And wherever you go, any part of America, the Jewish people are still not reckoned amongst the nation. That’s a miracle. To me it’s one of the most wonderful confirmations of the accuracy and authority of God’s word. That it rules history. That’s something we need to understand. It’s the word of God that rules history. God told Jeremiah, he said I will watch over my word to see that it’s fulfilled. Even if my people forget, even if they don’t believe, I will watch over my word to see that it’s fulfilled.
How do you deal with the telephone? The telephone and true rest are almost incompatible. If you haven’t a way of dealing with the telephone you’ll be a restless person—in America. Do you have the strength of character to unplug the phone? Praise God. Basically I don’t think you have much of a prayer life until you know how to deal with the telephone. Now I realize people who are in pastoral responsibility, somebody has got to be available. I think the best idea is have a pastor on duty one week at a time like a hospital has a doctor on duty. Anybody who wants anybody gets him. I will not let the telephone dictate to me. I’m not in pastoral ministry, I realize I have a difference.
Another thing we have observed in some of the fellowships that I’m related to is that the people that enjoy the Sabbath most are the children. They take to it the quickest and they’re disappointed if it isn’t observed. The children come into their own, too. They like to have an evening in which they have got to be really well dressed. And not to go out but to enjoy their home. How many children enjoy home today? I don’t think there are many. Their excitement is going out somewhere else. It says in Hebrews, “Let us labor to enter into that rest.” That’s so true. I mean, it’s the hardest working day of the week for the mother. She’s got to get everything ready to rest. She doesn’t have five minutes rest throughout the day because everything has got to be lined up because when the Sabbath horn sounds you’ve got to stop. If you’re an Orthodox Jewess or Jew.
I was speaking in a meeting in London recently which was a Christian meeting organized by a group called Prayer for Israel. An Orthodox Jewess who was in charge of a hospital in Jerusalem for the mentally handicapped agreed to come and speak about her work. And it was held on a Saturday so she said, “I can’t travel on a Saturday” but she said, “I’ll reserve a room in a hotel near enough to the meeting place. I can walk there.” She did. You probably may not be aware but there are still Jewish people, multitudes of them and not just ultra-Orthodox that wear the special clothes who observe the Sabbath meticulously. In a certain sense, there is a certain kind of holiness about it. I’m not saying it’s the same as the holiness that comes through commitment to Jesus but I have met men and women in the ranks of Judaism who I would have to call, in a sense, holy people. The law for them is a sanctifying influence. I’m not suggesting that we follow that pattern, it’s not for us. It’s only for Israel. I’m sure that may trouble some of you, your theories or your theology, but the problem with the people who have that theory and that theology is that they don’t have any contact with Jews. I had all sorts of theories about Catholics until I met them. Then I discovered there were lots of Catholics who didn’t fit into my theories about Catholics at all.
But I want to come back to this theme of rest. Just as a matter of interest, I don’t want to embarrass anybody. How many people here are in a Christian community which does observe some kind of weekly Sabbath? That’s interesting. Let me ask you, are you happy about it? I would think so. But it’s very difficult to do it in America. I hope it will interest you to share a little bit of the Jewish attitude to the Sabbath. It’s mind expanding. First of all, they always point out the first thing God sanctified was not a place but time. And they talk about the Sabbath as a cathedral in time.
Another interesting thing is that when God told Israel how much he wanted of their material wealth he settled for 1/10. But when he told them how much he wanted of their time he demanded 1/7. And I think that is a principle, not the exact proportion, but the principle. God wants more of our time than our material wealth.
Furthermore, how many of you would agree that it’s much easier to handle money than it is to handle time? That’s right. I really don’t believe the majority of Christians are at all successful in handling time. I think we’re going to have to learn that time has to be sanctified. That God requires time that’s been made holy. One of the root concepts of sanctification is setting something apart exclusively to God. I do think somehow or other we have to learn to set time apart for God. And if you practice tithing, normally it’s the first 1/10, isn’t it? Before anything else. Well I think we have to see the same principle with time. The first time belongs to God. All else is secondary. Now how you do that I’m not going to try to tell you because it’s individual, it’s personal. But if you don’t grasp the principle you’re always going to be short of time. How many of us have ever had a struggle, Lord, if I give you a 1/10 of my rather small income I’m not going to have enough left. But it never has worked out that way, has it? And it’s the same with time. You say, God, I don’t have time. God says try giving me some and see what will happen with the rest.
Ruth and I have been concerned that we weren’t enjoying the fullness of health that we felt was our portion. We do pretty well as I think you can see. We have a very demanding schedule and we hardly ever fail to keep it. This past year I did have to cancel some commitments because of ill health but that’s the first time I’ve done it for probably fifteen years I would say. We began to seek God—and this is an example of praying things through before they happen—as to what way we could increase our enjoyment of health. I’ll share with you the two results that we felt the Lord gave us.
The first I will share is that I felt the Lord showed me that there can be in us a fifth column. Something that when the enemy comes from the outside, opens the door—you know what a fifth column is, do you? Let me tell you. I forget that some of you are not as old as I am. The phrase fifth column has got a very interesting history. It was coined in l936 when there was a civil war in Spain and in that situation a certain Spanish general was besieging a Spanish city and a second general came to him and said what is your plan to take this city? And he said I have four columns attacking the city, one from the north, one from the south, one from the east, and one from the west. Then he paused and added but it’s my fifth column I’m expecting to take the city. The second general said where is your fifth column? And he said inside the city. That was the origin of the phrase the fifth column.
Well then in World War II in certain countries, particularly France, where there was a government that cooperated with the Nazis, and it was led by Marshal ?Petat?, he was considered to be a fifth columnist. And interestingly enough, at one point the German occupying commander demanded that all the newspapers print the photograph of Marshal ?Petat? on the front page so they all did but they all put it in the fifth column. So that’s the concept. The fifth column is the force inside the city that will cooperate with the ones who are attacking from the outside.
Well I have realized for years that the problem with Christians is the fifth column. Whether it’s the church collectively or the individual. Jesus said the prince of this world comes and has nothing in me. There was no fifth column in Jesus, Satan could not defeat him. But it’s a very far reaching thing. And when I get into this I always wonder how I’m going to get out of it. This is recent, this is last year. I felt the Lord indicated that sometimes there is a fifth column within us that when sickness attacks from without, opens the door. See, in the ministry of deliverance I’ve learned there are certain demons that hold the doors open for others. I’ll tell you the names of two of them, resentment and self pity. Their job is to let others in. And if you don’t eliminate them, you haven’t solved the person’s problem.
As I began to deal with this issue in my own life I thought to myself I thought I have eliminated every fifth column. And believe me, that was a long process in my life because I had been deeply involved in yoga. And once you open up to the occult you don’t have any idea the ramifications that it will produce inside you. But I felt I dealt with all those. I also dealt with depression. The first time I ever really came to grips personally with a demon, it was depression and I was delivered from it. But I still felt there was something and I felt that somehow it related to my father who is now no longer in this world. He was a good man, an army officer, a very upright, very honorable, but had a tremendous problem with depression himself. And when I was delivered from depression, it was very clear to me that it was through my father that I had come under that demon. My first wife Lydia said to me after my father died, she said, you’re a different person since your father died. Now I had never myself felt any different. But the Lord has been generally opening up to me the tremendous significance of inheritance. Our contemporary psychology and sociology has completely minimized it but it is now changing because it’s been faced with facts it cannot deny.
But setting that aside, I’ve come to the conclusion that multitudes of people are in some way still under the power of inheritance from the past. I can say this safely here, being British and you people being American, there’s a tremendous kind of gloominess in the British inheritance. Britain is a country of old, musty churches, old haunted castles, ghosts and so on. Don’t underestimate ghosts. There are lots of them. And there’s a kind of an absence of joy. A great tendency towards pessimism. At any rate, as I prayed and sought God it seemed to me that there was some dark fountain in my inheritance which had never been sealed off. It was hard for me to accept that because of all that I’d been through in getting disconnected from the past. So I asked the Lord to show me and the word he gave me was pessimism. Well know I knew I’d been a pessimist but when I was delivered from depression the Lord showed me I could retrain my mind and I didn’t have to stay a pessimist. And I’m not a pessimist today, I’m an optimistic person. That’s a process of retraining. But I had an experience over the years when I would wake up in the morning with a sense of foreboding, something dark. Now I’ve learned how to deal with that. You begin to praise the Lord, quote scripture and you can dispel it. But the Lord really seemed to show me I didn’t need to wake up with that sense. And there was still I would call, a dark stream of pessimism flowing out of my inheritance. From my father, and not just from my father but from my total British inheritance. And so, very simply I renounced it and I cut it off and something happened very specific. And I don’t have that sense of foreboding. I knew how to handle it but I’ve often said to people sometimes we expend a lot of spiritual energy dealing with something that doesn’t need to be there. So I share that with you. Now how did I get that.
The second thing that God showed us about living in health is to move in rhythm with God. That God has a sense of rhythm. God is a musician. It’s not just a rock beat, there’s a whole lot of variety in the Lord’s tempo. And that success and health and the minimum wastage of energy comes in moving in rhythm with God. And that means among other things when God says rest, you rest. I’m not talking just about observing a day in the week because I’ve discovered if you’re getting tense and overworked, God may say take the evening off. And then you say, but God, I’ve got so much to do by such and such a time. Well, who knows best? Let me ask you this? Which takes more faith? To rest or to work? It’s easy to work, difficult to rest. I think probably the most challenging issue that I can put before you at the moment is that of rest. Bearing in mind that you can only rest in your inheritance. If you’re out of your inheritance you will know no real rest. But even in your inheritance it’s going to take faith.
Study the concept of Sabbath. I don’t believe Christians can observe the Sabbath because there’s only one way to observe the Sabbath if you’re going to and it’s the way Moses said. Moses said when he gave the law, don’t add to it, don’t take from it. You are not permitted to kindle fire, you are not permitted to carry a burden, you are not permitted to travel any distance... So don’t kid yourself if you’re observing the Sabbath, do it the complete job; otherwise, don’t do it at all. For a community to have a collective Sabbath I think is a beautiful thing if it works. But it’s not observing the law of Moses. It’s taking a principle and applying it by the leading of the Holy Spirit. But face the whole challenge of rest. Take a concordance, look up the word rest, follow it through. Look up the word Sabbath. God always said to Israel, I’ve given you my Sabbath. He never said I imposed on you. And Israel basically has always viewed the Sabbath as one of the most precious gifts that God ever gave them. So when God talks about rest, say thank you Lord, for this gift. Don’t say how am I going to get my assignments complete. God can inspire you. You may have a sermon to prepare, you rest and find that you can do it in one quarter of the time and do it better. The basis is faith. We who have believed enter into rest. If you don’t believe you never will enter into rest. And I would suggest this: cultivate sensing God’s rhythm in your life. Isaiah 40: those that wait upon the Lord do renew their strength. Our strength is not going to be sufficient. We’re going to have to draw on the Lord’s strength. Where it says they shall renew their strength, the Hebrew says exchange strength. In other words, I believe we exchanged God’s strength for ours as we wait upon him.
God’s people are a waiting people. I don’t know whether you have ever thought about that. It says in 1Thessalonians 1:9–10:
“For they themselves declare concerning us, what manner of entry we had to you, and how you turned to God from idols to serve the living and true God, and to wait for his Son from heaven.”
I wonder if you’ve ever noticed that? The two marks of the Christian life, to serve God and to wait for his son. God’s people are a waiting people. We should be an expectant people. To him that expect him he will appear the second time. One of the things that distinguishes us from the people of the world is that we’re waiting for something. It’s not just serving. It’s serving and waiting.
Then in closing, and whether you notice it or not, this will be point number seven. I put finally but then I slipped a six in so there came seven. And that was not my planning. I just want to say one more thing. That is don’t sell your birthright. You might think that’s absurd but I don’t feel that way. We’ll just look for a moment in Hebrews 12:14 and following.
“Pursue peace with all men and holiness, without which no one will see the Lord. Looking diligent lest anyone fall short of the grace of God, lest any root of bitterness springing up cause trouble and by this many become defiled. Lest there be any fornicator or profane person like Esau who for one morsel of food sold his birthright. For you know that afterward, when he wanted to inherit the blessing he was rejected for he found no place for repentance though he sought it, the blessing diligently with tears.”
The NIV brings out the fact it was the blessing not the place of repentance that he sought. One of the things that’s exercised me is the difference between Esau and Jacob. And I’m sure you’re aware that in Malachi God says Jacob I’ve loved, Esau I’ve hated. Very strong language. Twins, yet one God loved, the other he hated. As I pointed out I think here this includes the whole truth of election. God chose Jacob before he was even born and rejected Esau before he was even born. Do you think that’s fair? I tell people God isn’t fair. He’s just but he’s not fair by our standards of fairness. Don’t expect it of God because you’ll be disappointed. I hope that doesn’t shock you. You can’t say that God was fair with his dealings with Job. The best man in the world at that time and look what he went through. But don’t be too anxious because I doubt whether any of us here could be treated the way God treated Job. God knows who he can treat that way and who he cannot.
But I just want in closing to suggest to you what was the difference between Esau and Jacob? Esau was really the good guy, he was tough, masculine, a hunter, his father’s favorite. For rather bad reasons. I was looking through some very old Bible outlines that I preached in London in the l950s. And I found one with a most fascinating title, I couldn’t preach it today but this was the title. How a Wrong Attitude to Food Corrupted the Family Life of Isaac. I’ll leave it with you to think it over. I may have to think it over myself. At least we can say it was because he enjoyed venison that he preferred the unspiritual son to the spiritual. I mean, really in modern America, Esau would be the popular one. He’s probably wear a cowboy hat and boots, I mean, if either of them were ever to appear in a movie it would be Esau.
Jacob, his very name means heel. True! He was grasping, somewhat unscrupulous, he was afraid to deceive his father but he was willing to do it because of what his mother tricked him into. Incidentally, Rebekah is the first Yiddish ?amama?. You know, I mean, she has as many descendants as you can’t count. She really manipulated the whole family. And so none of us would naturally like Jacob. Even though we may be much more like him than we think we are. So what was there that appealed to God in Jacob? I would say very simply this and I’ll leave this thought with you. In spite of all the defects in his character, he wanted what God had to offer. And he was prepared to do whatever it took to get it. And Esau, though he was was the good guy, could care less about his spiritual inheritance. He sold it for a bowl of soup. And I think that one thing that God looks for: You may have your personal problems, you may have your personality problems. The question is, are you determined that you’re going to get your inheritance? That you’re not going to settle for anything less than God’s best. I believe if you have that attitude, God can deal with your character. You may end up limping like Jacob but Jacob limped back into his inheritance. Esau lost his. So let me leave that with you, Amen.